FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 30, 2013

ki ki ki meh meh meh

Came across this yesterday and I was so shocked I almost spat my leftover Thanksgiving stuffing all over my computer screen.

Can you believe this shit? Mind you, I thought that the remake was a big waste of natural resources- no wait...actually, I pretty much wanted to set it on fire- but I'm surprised that instead of hopping down the sequel trail, they're re-reboot-ening.

But then, on the older, wiser, perhaps more boring hand...I find that I do not care. You see, I no longer live in Los Angeles, so my days of press screenings and free screenings and movie openings are past. Having to pay for something, well, that makes me a far more discerning viewer because the idea of spending some of my precious few dollars on another remake of Friday the 13th makes me want to puke. I'll have to wait for it to show up at Redbox or Netflix or something, and I have a feeling there's always going to be something I'd rather watch. But who knows! I've done worse things in the interests of science, so maybe I'll take a reckless plunge when the time comes.

Moreso, however, it got me thinking about slashers in general, their place in the horror movie pantheon, and how much appeal they hold for me these days. Heck, I started Final Girl to talk exclusively about 'em! Now here I am, unable to achieve a metaphorical boner of love or hate for the idea of a new Friday the 13th.

I suppose it's a combination of things. Tastes change, after all, and right now my horror tastes generally run in directions other than "young attractive people are stabbed in creative ways". I say "generally" because hey, every once in a while a new slasher flick comes along and I really dig it. And, of course, I still adore the slashers of mah yoot and indulge in them on the regular. Geez, I wrote a comic about 'em! I guess I've simply come to a place in life where I embrace the freedom of not giving a shit about stuff like this. Or, at least, my Internet Anger tank is running on fumes, so it'd take something particularly heinous- say, a remake of Martyrs starring Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian- to get me all riled up. Even then, though, I think I'd run out of steam pretty quickly. After all, I've seen some of the crappiest remakes to ever crap a crap, and I am. My love for the original films continues unabated. The moon continues to wax and wane, my haircuts continue to mystify even myself. I just don't see the point of frothing over it beyond an initial ARE YOU KIDDING ME NOOOOOO. Then it's back to Thanksgiving leftovers, you know?

Nov 25, 2013

The choice has been chosen

Thanks for all the Film Club suggestions posted both here and on the Final Girl Facebook page. You guys have the best taste, I swear! But this month, there can only be one movie and that movie is...

La residencia (aka Finishing School, aka The House That Screamed)

It's a SHOCKtober placer, having appeared at #301 on the list of films that have scared you the most, and at #229 on your list of favorites. Therefore it's been on my radar for years. Therefore, the time has come. And the whole damn thing is on The YouTubes, so you have no excuses. Give it a watch. Write something up or join the discussion or both! See why everyone* raves about the Final Girl Film Club.

The movie: La residencia
The due date: Tuesday, December 17
The deal: 

1. watch the movie
2. link to Final Girl somewhere in your review
3. email me the link: stacieponder at gmail dot com
4. bask in the warm embrace of your fellow Film Clubbers

If you wrote a review of the film previously, that's totally fine. Just add a link to Final Girl in there somewhere and send it along.

*no one

Nov 22, 2013

A call to arms!

So I'm sitting here having the darndest time- THE DARNDEST TIME I SAY- deciding what the next Film Club selection should be. The last couple of weeks have been largely movie-free for me, and now I don't know what I feel like. Supernatural? Classic? Slasher? Something I've seen already? Italian? I just can't figure out my feels.

Help me out! List some suggestions in the comments and we'll see what shakes out. While I can research and find out how readily available a movie might be, I do implore you: consult my reviews list before naming a film to see if I've already written about it.

Here is a picture of the late Macdonald Carey of television's Days of Our Lives to reward you in advance for your efforts.

Nov 21, 2013

Wow, a free movie!

So check it out. As some of you may recall, once upon a time I wrote and directed a little horror movie called Ludlow. It was on DVD for a while, but now it is out of print. But DVDs are so last century, amirite? Now you can just download the movie! Hooray. And in hooray-ier news, you can download it and pay what you want! If you want to pay nothing, pay nothing. If you want to pay a dollar, pay a dollar. If you want to pay nothing now and a dollar later, pay nothing now and a dollar later. If you want to pay a dollar now and ten dollars later...oh man, according to my science calculator, the possibilities are endless. Here's the link to download it at Gumroad, yay! And here's the teaser trailer.

I don't know if it's any good, but maybe it's not terrible for being shot in like two days with a crew of one and a budget of about $200. And it's free, so what's the harm? At the least, you'll probably like the terrific soundtrack courtesy of James M. Barry. If you want to read a couple of reviews and check out some making of blog posts I wrote, here you go. Movies, amirite?

Nov 12, 2013

Film Club: The Conjuring

It's about time I saw The Conjuring, isn't it? Everyone has had their hands down their pants over this flick since it hit theaters, where it racked up more money than every other horror movie combined. It's the best genre film since forever, director James Wan is single-handedly saving the industry, it's got a 7.6 on IMDb, it's #31 on the What Movies Have Scared You the Most, I would have seen this months ago if I wasn't such a creepy recluse! Now that The Conjuring and I have gotten conjugal, how oh how do I feel?

Purportedly based on true events, The Conjuring tells the story of the Perron family, who seek the help of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren to rid their house of some seriously troublesome malevolent force. Kids are yanked out of bed, doors open and close, knocks are heard when there ain't no one knocking...pretty standard modus operandi for a ghost poltergeist demon, pretty standard horror movie stuff. So why is everyone flipping out over The Conjuring?

Well, everyone is flipping out because the film is, quite simply, designed to scare you. At times, it works- I mean, noises coming from somewhere in the dark is super effective, duh. If the subject matter is treated seriously- and The Conjuring takes itself really, really seriously- then the audience is bound to respond. One sequence in particular had me...hmm, how to describe, hmm. Okay, if The Conjuring had a hand, one sequence would have had me eating right out of the palm of it: the scene that finds Perron matriarch Carolyn (Lili Taylor) investigating those noises in the dark. Super effective! Hooray!

But man, I dunno. The rest of it seemed so calculated, so obvious, a bit like one of those haunted houses that pop up around Halloween. You know, you walk through it and it's dark and creepy and you're clinging to the shirt of the person in front of you and your stomach is twisted up in knots...but then part of you knows exactly how everything will play out. You see are dark corner and you think, "Okay, so that's where the person will jump out at me." You walk by a closed door and you know it's going to pop open. There's nothing wrong with this, and it's fun to get on board and just go with it. But ultimately, rather than burrow under your skin and stay with you, it's sort of fleeting and cheap and hollow. Like some of my best relationships! Heyoooooo!

It's to the film's detriment that Wan establishes a standard routine to the scares: there's a lure, a false scare, and then the real scare, ahh! It doesn't help that he seems reluctant to let a moment linger. Instead, there's always a music sting or a jump scare to wrap things up. On the rare occasions he allows a scene to progress slowly, it's terrific: when a terrified young girl whispers to her sister that there's someone standing in the dark behind her bedroom door, it's the stuff of childhood nightmares played out. I wanted more of that, the creeping dread, and less of the startles, if you know what I mean.

I have no idea whether or not Ed and Lorraine Warren are a couple of sheisters, capitalizing on peoples' fears and gullibility. Mind, I say "I have no idea" while knowing that they undoubtedly's just that I find a world where demons are a possibility much more interesting than one where they are not, so a part of me will always entertain the notion that the Warrens were on the up and up. Regardless, The Conjuring doesn't quite know what to do with the couple, and this is where the film really falls apart. We get some backstory (which also allows James Wan to once again confront his fear of creepy-looking dolls) and see them lecturing, sure, but there are only hints at how their demon-busting ways have affected their lives. There's too much on the Warrens, but also not enough. We know God brought them together, as they say, and we know that they've seen some why are they so friggin' boring?

The Conjuring is essentially set up like a porno: the scenes between the "good stuff" are total throwaways, the ones you fast-forward through to get to the sexy times (or, in this case, the scary times). When Carolyn attends one of the Warrens' lectures and then tries to convince them to investigate her house, it is some "Who ordered the sausage pizza?" shit! Basically, it's this:

Carolyn: Some weird stuff is happening at my house. Will you come look?
Ed and Lorraine: No, sorry...
Carolyn: Please?
Ed and Lorraine: Okay.

And the fact that somehow, Lorraine has done some research and solved every single mystery and figured out every single clue and explains it all to Ed in 15 seconds? You get the idea that the film was originally a bunch of scary ideas, and then right before shooting, everyone realized they needed some scenes in between.

Girl, and don't even get me started on that exorcism.

Okay, do get me started.

So, exorcisms are a big deal, right? There needs to be research and documentation. Permission must be granted from on high (if not from the Exorcist Committee of the Vatican or what have you). They are serious business and only once in a while are they ever performed. When they are performed, it's by, you know, an exorcist. The Conjuring makes note of all of these facts...and then craps all over them. Here's how you can perform an in-home, priestless exorcism today, according to this movie:

1. Believe in God
2. Read from "the book"
3. Sprinkle some holy water
4. Remind the possessed person about something nice

That's it! The possessed person will then barf out the demon, problem solved. I don't see why Fathers Merrin and Karras got so worked up about the MacNeil affair and why it took such a heavy toll on them, or why they had to take breaks. That shit looks easy!

I know, it seems like I'm harshing on this movie. Maybe I am a little bit. I thought the "so this one Salem witch was a real witch, honest" angle to be somewhat distasteful. As I said, the scare pattern took away much of its power, and I spent the last 20 minutes or so just waiting for it to be over. I did have some fun with it, but I'm sorry to say that my hands are decidedly outside of my pants over The Conjuring.

EDITED TO ADD: For real, can someone explain to me how this was a demon and not just the ghost of the witch? Is it because she was all "Go, Satan!" so he made her a demon? Or, what, ghosts can't possess people and the film needed a possession? I am for real confused.

Film Club Coolies! Go see what they have to say!
Death Blog: The Blog that Eats People
The Verdant Dude
Zombie Club
Diana Rogers
Insomniac's Cinema
Scarina's Scary Vault of Scariness

Nov 2, 2013


My coffee doesn't seem to be kicking in very hard this morning, so I figured I'd wake myself up with a little bit of rage by watching the trailer for the 1999 remake of The Haunting.

I know some people like the remake, so I thought, "I've only seen it the one time. It does have a good cast...I will check out the trailer- perhaps I've judged it too harsh--" and then the trailer began and OH MY GAHD, they get it all so SO wrong with the very first line! By the time 15 seconds have passed, you realize that this movie will poop all over the legacy of the original film. Check it out:

"There once was a house...a bright, happy home. Something bad it sits all alone."

Forget for a moment how poorly written that is, how absolutely unterrifying it is. Calling Hill House a "bright, happy home"? What kind of fuckery is that? Hill House was never a bright, happy home. Hill House was different from all the other cinematic (and literary) haunted houses that came before because it was an evil place, "born bad". It's not the Overlook Hotel, full of the ghosts borne of misdeeds past; it's "vile", an abomination. While "the dead are not quiet" there, it's not so much that it's "haunted" by ghosts as it is the haunt itself.

To get that very concept wrong...I guess this remake was doomed from the start. As I said, I know folks out there like it and that's great! Like what you like. Liking things is good. If it were up to me, though, every copy of it would be placed in a big pile, and then the pile would be burned down, and then the ground would be sown with salt.

I know that you know that I really love The Haunting. Like, really. But look, I just watched the new Blu Ray and it was beautiful and it's one of my favorite films and it's so good and sad and sorry I just love it OKAY (although geez, it's the film's 50th Anniversary and Warner Brothers really dropped the ball with this bare-bones release).

Nov 1, 2013

Horror's unanswered questions: THE EXORCIST

Who places the crucifix under Regan's pillow?

No one will cop to it! Was it a Pazuzu-ified Regan herself, using it to help goad Chris into seeking a religious solution to the problem? Makes sense if the Pazuzu/Merrin royal rumble actually began when he exorcised the boy in Africa years earlier: the demon wants to get on with this showcase showdown. was Karl. Rather than deny placing it there straight off, he responds to Chris's accusation with "She is going to be well?", perhaps indicating his guilt.

I watched the new 40th Anniversary edition of this film recently and ugh, I just love it so much. Of course it's scary and crazy and full of horrifying imagery that will stay with you...well, forever. But oh, the characters and the tiny moments in The Exorcist are what put it at the top of the heap and give me something new to appreciate every time I see it. The mother-daughter dynamic between Regan and Chris is so wonderful and heartbreaking and it's absolutely the backbone of the story for me.

But there's so much more: Lt. Kinderman's love of movies (and bad jokes). Regan's kiss on the cheek for Father Dyer. Sharon ultimately deciding that what happened in that Georgetown house is too much for her to bear...the quick hug shared between her and Chris, who walks away without a look back. Fathers Dyer and Damian having drinks and exorcising their own demons. Regan sobbing in the corner when she's finally free. Sure, horror fans- myself most definitely included- love the grotesque, supernatural hijinks that the possessed get up to, and you won't find any hijinks more disturbing than those in this film. But the characters feel like people in The Exorcist- people you come to care about. I've no idea how many times I've seen this film, but I still find myself hoping that this innocent girl will make it through this terrible experience. I mean, I know she memory works fine. I know that Regan does make it through and that she goes on to become quite a dazzling tap dancer. The point is, I still get wrapped up in her story.

I know I've argued it countless times before, but if horror filmmakers gave more love to characters so we, in turn, could do the same, the genre would be so much better off.

All that said, I found my feelings changed on another subject after this recent viewing, and that's Pazuzu. I've always felt that outside of, you know, wreaking havoc in the MacNeil's lives (to put it mildly), the demon didn't really do much. In other words, I couldn't see much of the point of this possession: sure, Regan gets gross-faced and obscene and flails around in bed, but to what end?

The Exorcist has long terrified me, of course, but this time it seemed to be on a different level: the gross-faced histrionics took a backseat and I found myself focused on the things the demon did do while possessing the body of a 12-year-old girl. You know, all the things Pazuzu did off-screen: defiling the statue in the church. Killing poor, drunken Burke by twisting his head around completely backwards (and then mimicking the act later- I got more shivers from that moment this time than I ever have before) and tossing him out the window. Either killing Father Merrin outright or, at least, inducing heart failure in the frail old man. The scene where the demon- untied now- sits quietly watching as Father Karras desperately tries to resuscitate Merrin...and then softly laughs when he ultimately more terrifying than any of the shock-value stuff, as is the notion that Pazuzu is simply waiting, that even in the body of a child he can wield so much power. And if, acting through Regan, the demon did place the crucifix where Chris would find it- if it was, in fact, playing mind games with her- it's enough to make you want to convert to anything.

Do you have a horror movie question you'd like answered? Email it to me at stacieponder (at) gmail dot com with the subject line "horror's unanswered questions" and maybe we'll see to hashing it out here!